Unreal Engine 3, the game engine that provides the visuals and physics behind popular shooter games such as “America’s Army 3” and “Mass Effect 3,” is being licensed to government customers. UE3 designer Epic Games will license the game engine to Applied Research Associates (ARA). The Virtual Heroes division of ARA will then license UE3 to government users through the Unreal Government Network (UGN).
“There was not previously a complete ecosystem in place to support the government user,” said Jerry Heneghan, product development director for ARA’s HumanSim medical simulation. UGN is intended to provide government developers with training, technical support, custom content development and access to Virtual Heroes UE3 add-ons.
One project using the engine is a sedation and airway trainer for the U.S. Army’s Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center. The simulation is an anesthesia trainer that includes 10 complex learning modules to teach medical and critical decision-making skills to general practitioner Army physicians preparing for deployment. The scenarios could be “dramatic situations” of intubating or sedating patients under conditions found at combat surgical hospitals, Heneghan said. “Did you use the right anesthetic? Did you overdose or underdose the patient?”
The project, a collaboration between Virtual Heroes and the Duke University Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, is funded by the Defense Health Program for Medical Research and the Joint Program Committee for Medical Education & Training Systems.
Another, more hush-hush project is Sirius, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) effort to develop serious games to train intelligence analysts to recognize and diminish their own biases and thus produce more accurate analyses. ARA, along with other contractors such as Raytheon, has received a $10 million IARPA award to fund research.
Heneghan said he could not give details of ARA’s approach toward Sirius, but he said that the UE3 game “provides a mechanism to directly test and train debiasing strategies in a variety of contexts, and focuses the student’s attention on the cognitive training.” ARA has also developed a UE3-based crime scene trainer for trainees at the FBI Academy, while a major defense contractor and national laboratory — whom ARA did not identify — also use UE3 modules.
At this stage, the UGN modules do not have authoring tools, meaning users can’t modify them. Allowing users to mod the anesthesia trainer presented problems such as medical responsibility, according to Heneghan. “The question is, if someone gets hurt three years from now, and they use some scenario that Joe Sixpack made, who is liable?”
Heneghan believes UGN will be a useful one-stop-shopping site for government customers. “We think that the UGN will be a success multiplier for the government user by providing resources and support to cut learning curves, promote best practices, and accelerate development of projects needing must-have features like AAR [after-action review] by making them available as modules to be licensed.”
ARA will also provide government clients with UE3-based training modules through Web browsers, leaving a minimal footprint on users’ computers. “Most of the customers in this space [government] want a simulation for learning, a virtual world or a serious game that can be delivered through a Web browser that can be linked through a learning management system on the back end, and they want it to be DIACAP [DoD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process] secure,” Heneghan said.